BY CLAYTON TOMLINSON

Even though this country is the epitome of ‘the great outdoors’,  Canada’s climate makes it hard to enjoy that natural beauty for the majority of the year. One way to capitalize on the warm summer months is to go camping.

It’s a great activity to do with friends and family, cheap and you can get out of town for a few days. As a somewhat experienced camper, I’d like to break down a few of the best spots, and tips, to make camping as enjoyable as possible. It’s also the 125th anniversary of the Ontario Provincial Parks, so it seemed fitting.

Be warned: true camping usually means no running water, little-to-no electricity and a total lack of shampoo.

Best Places to Camp

  1. Your Backyard

Even though camping is relatively cheap, it will still cost you. There are fees related to reserving and using a camping ground, gas and food money, and booze (of course). But don’t fret – your backyard is a great alternative. There are no bugs, the washroom is actually a washroom and not just a toilet with plywood masquerading as walls, and you can always just go inside lest you get tired of ‘the great outdoors’.

  1. The Pinery

About an hour outside of London, ON is Pinery Provincial Park. It is a thin slice of land on the east coast of Lake Huron and has some of the best sunsets in the province. There is nothing to block the view… literally. It is also home to a collection of warm, sandy beaches, has good amenities, and is not far from the town of Grand Bend, which means you can always stock up if you’ve made a packing mistake. Or if your modest alcohol supply proves too modest.

  1. Bon Echo

This park is one of the most secluded you’ll find in Ontario. It’s located between Kingston, Ottawa, Pembroke and Peterborough – not really close to any of those locales though. This out-of-the-way nature spot has allowed it to remain a forest containing a couple of lakes.  Come here if you want to escape everything – yourself, work, family. But beware of the bugs.

  1. Algonquin Park

Too famous not to mention, this park is the epitome of summer-camp canoe trip stops. Beware the bugs and the smattering of unshaven, unwashed counsellors trying to get their hair to clean ‘naturally’ and wearing those equally unwashed woven, cloth bracelets. I’ve never been myself, but I haven’t heard a bad thing about the place. It is unique in that you must walk or canoe to your campsites, while most other parks have sites you can park your car in. This is not for the weak of body or mind – just for those weak in olfactory sense.

 

General Tips for your Trip

Camping can be an extremely cathartic experience or an awful one; it depends on the company you keep on your trip. I have two friends that I will camp with most summers because of their unflappable, happy-go-lucky sides that makes wet matches, or rain, into something to laugh about, a reason to reminisce. If you go with lame people, chances are the camping will also be lame.

Another important tip is ‘to thine own self be true’.  Know what you can live without and what’s non-negotiable. If you look on the Ontario Parks website, you can figure out which camps have electrical outlets at each campsite, which have running water, nice restrooms, etc. It’s really worthwhile to take a peek and familiarize yourself with the park you’re visiting regardless. Book your site as early as you can, the parks mentioned above, and the ones you’ll really want to see fill up months in advance.

Other than that, just don’t take yourself seriously, we are all fools when we haven’t had a shower or a meal made in an oven for several days in a row.

Have fun and be safe. Those are the most important tips for camping!